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Monday, November 30, 2009

Parent Involvement series in MJS--first reactions (note updates below)

by folkbum

Many moons ago, I mentioned here that Erin Richards of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel was working on a series about parent involvement in schools.

It is running this week, finally, and it is good. (It seems I have a cameo in today's story.)

Yesterday's story, the first, has some sobering statistics about MPS and its failure to connect with parents. Here's something from it, featuring the blame-teachers-first mentality of our present administration:
But MPS has a spotty record, long operating a splintered outreach program that makes it easy to catch the same parents repeatedly and miss the vast majority that needs assistance. [. . .]

"(Teachers) still view themselves as individual practitioners," [Superintendent William] Andrekopoulos said. "We will try to work with them and resolve these issues, but we don't have any language in the (union) contract that says they absolutely have to work with parents."

But leaders in the Milwaukee Teachers' Education Association [MTEA] say the administration has never tried to engage the union at the bargaining table on the issue.
Blame the union, blame the union--and miss a key point. A teacher's work with parents is, in fact, a part of the evaluation process we all undergo (teachers are evaluated annually for the first five years, then every three years after that or as deemed necessary by the principal). Principals can identify problem areas in evaluations and require teachers to work on those. If word came from the top that every principal would be checking parent contacts during evaluations, you'd better believe the contacts we make (for indeed, we do try) would be better documented.

In addition, it's a fairly common thing for schools to include in their School Improvement Plans (all of which are public documents available from the MPS website; search for a school name and "school improvement plan" to see specific ones) better coordination and contact with parents. Service to the SIP is also a factor in teacher evaluations.

Finally, I would add that the amount of training I have had as a professional on dealing with parents is right about zero. No district or school inservices that I can recall had parent outreach as a topic. Teachers and the union don't set those topics. The one moment I do remember learning about better parent outreach came in an MTEA presentation for new teachers back when I first started in the district. I gathered with a bunch of other newbies in the basement of the MTEA building, on my own time, and heard suggestions from a panel of experienced teachers.

So why, again, are we blaming the union?

UPDATED to add two things: One, not seen yet (though it may be coming) in the discussion about parents and MPS is the fact that so many MPS parents send their children, particularly older children, to schools far away from home or even work. At a public meeting held for the community of my school regarding significant potential changes to the school, not one parent showed up to speak. Not one. Admittedly, the meeting was a bit short-notice (a different story entirely), but that not one parent was there is stunning to contemplate. (I addressed the myth of the Neighborhood Student in my last Compass column.)

Two, bills up for consideration right now to move away from elected leadership in the district to appointed leadership under the control of the mayor will just further remove parents from the process. Indeed, the leading bill, Colón-Taylor, would re-purpose the elected school board to be a buffer between parents and the real governance of the district. Given what we already know, thanks in large part to Erin Richards's collecting all the info into one place--about MPS's failures with parents, how is it rational that such a move is even being considered?

Friday, November 27, 2009

FriTunes: Almost forgot in my holiday stupor

by folkbum

Amy LaVere, who slaps a mean bass.

Possibly related: Jim Morrison returns to soothe a woman from the bottom of her iron.

Paul Ryan: Number 5!

by folkbum

Number five on the list of top Republican distortions, anyway.

Although I would argue he should also be number three, since he was caught using that fake statistic just two weeks ago.

Buy Nothing Day

by folkbum

So far so good. Although later I may go out to dinner at a locally-owned eatery.

Thursday, November 26, 2009


by folkbum

You betcha. Happy day, all.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009


by folkbum

People want comment? Sure. In the form of a deep thought:
Deep Thought
Apparently climate-change deniers who have hacked access to fifteen years' worth of scientists' emails can't find a smoking gun more powerful than one scientist admitting that he substituted actual thermometer readings in place of proxy measures for temperature in one of his papers.

Classic Slice

by folkbum

If there is any flaw in the Classic Slice business model, it's that the slices are so big that the crust is cold by the time you get to it. Still, thankful for that.

"Now, there are some who would like to rewrite history—revisionist historians is what I like to call them."

--George W. Bush, June 16, 2003

"We did not have a terrorist attack on our country during President Bush's term."
--Dana Perino, former Bush spokeswoman, November 24, 2009

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Internet polls are meaningless

by folkbum

But just in case they aren't ...

... and, sadly, nowhere to write in anyone.

Apples to Horse Apples

by folkbum

There's an ugly internet rumor going around that Sarah Palin's poll numbers are as good as Barack Obama's. It's not true. (Graphs below are as of 11/24; click on them to be magically transported to pollster for current data.)

(And for kicks, you can play with the graphs to remove the outlier Rassmussen, watch the two get farther apart.)

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Meanwhile, Over at the Americans for Prosperity Meeting

By Keith R. Schmitz

Context matters. Except when it doesn't.

by folkbum

A moth or so ago--at the current pace of things, it may as well have been last century--then-current (now former) White House Communications Director Anita Dunn was flogged across the wingnutoverse because, in a speech that included quotes from the likes of Mother Teresa, she quoted a line from Mao Tse Tung that meant, roughly, "choose your battles wisely." Not a jarring sentiment in and of itself, but the context, we were told--after all, Mao was a Communist Bastard responsible for Countless Deaths and other Crimes Against Humanity And Decency--that context mattered, and Dunn's repetition of that quotation, however banal, crossed a significant line.

This week, those same futzes are all super-duper amused with themselves passing on the latest dimwit internet meme: "Pray for Obama," they say, citing a Bible verse, Psalms 109:8. That verse, if you haven't seen it, is "May his days be few; may another take his office" (depending on the translation). That's an ambiguous enough sentiment by itself to be not terrible. However, the context--reading the rest of the Psalm excerpted--makes it clear that this is one of a series of consequences imagined by the Psalmist after an enemy of his dies. The very next verse, for example, is "May his wife be widowed and his children be orphans." The whole thing is a prayer for death, not just a wish for a short term in charge.

So which is it, wingnuts? Does context matter, as in the Dunn case? Or does context not matter, as in your wish for Obama's assassination?

None of this should come as a surprise, by the way. Even just tracking the local hate-typists, you can see that in addition to thinking Obama's death a la Psalms is great, they think killing any Democrat is a hoot.

Laughing With Lyrical Love

By 3rd Way

The genius of the Interfaith Conference of Greater Milwaukee's decision to exclude the Islamic members of their group on a trip to the Mideast made me think of the lyrics to Regina Spektor's* "Laughing With".

No one laughs at God in a hospital
No one laughs at God in a war
No one’s laughing at God
When they’re starving or freezing or so very poor

No one laughs at God
When the doctor calls after some routine tests
No one’s laughing at God
When it’s gotten real late
And their kid’s not back from the party yet

No one laughs at God
When their airplane start to uncontrollably shake
No one’s laughing at God
When they see the one they love, hand in hand with someone else
And they hope that they’re mistaken


But God can be funny
At a cocktail party when listening to a good God-themed joke, or
Or when the crazies say He hates us
And they get so red in the head you think they’re ‘bout to choke
God can be funny,
When told he’ll give you money if you just pray the right way
And when presented like a genie who does magic like Houdini
Or grants wishes like Jiminy Cricket and Santa Claus
God can be so hilarious
Ha ha
Ha ha

No one laughs at God in a hospital
No one laughs at God in a war
No one’s laughing at God
When they’ve lost all they’ve got
And they don’t know what for


No one’s laughing at God
No one’s laughing at God
No one’s laughing at God
We’re all laughing with God

I like the idea of a jocular God, but I don't think God would be laughing with this interfaith group.

*apologies to Jay for featuring an anti-folk artist

Caption Contest

by folkbum

It's Superman! He'll save us!

(stolen from)

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Only if I get to pick which state

by folkbum

They've started the campaign, it seems.

UPDATED to add, to the naysayers who think I would not be qualified: I believe that I am because I have common sense, and I have, I believe, the values that are reflective of so many other Wisconsin values. And I believe that what Wisconsinites are seeking is not the elitism, the kind of a spinelessness that perhaps is made up for that with some kind of elite Ivy League education and a fact resume that's based on anything but hard work and private sector, free enterprise principles. Wisconsinites could be seeking something like that in positive change in their leadership. I'm not saying that has to be me.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Deep Thought

by folkbum

If I'm an Outpost owner--and I am--can I ban this guy from the store?

Alternately, going after the comments: I did a google search [on] organic vs. nonorganic and all the articles I read will tout organic farming methods, manure vs other fertilizer, non use of pesticides, some even claim organic vegetables have a higher content of a certain nutrient. What I find interesting is that every article I read is very careful to explain (usually somewhere near the bottom) that organic is not healthier for you.

Because ingesting and inhaling and living in a world full of chemical fertilizers and pesticides is the healthiest thing ever!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Land of the Little People

By Keith R. Schmitz

The terror trials are coming to New York City and there is a possibility that a prison in North Illinois (with the lusty urging of the locals) will take some of the Gitmo inmates. And like clockwork the exploitation begins.

This morning tells us that in predictable fashion and like dogs salivating to Pavlov's bell, the GOP will look to exploit the ginned up concern in next year's midterms. And why not. They have little else to offer us and how can they when they hate government. Several GOP members in Congress have already jumped in on the panic.

So no surprise mistress-marrying, criminal crony promoter, 9/11 parrot Rudy Guiliani is whipping this issue like a rented mule. Locally one TV station did a 10:00 news promo the other night with the alarmist statement "are terrorists coming to Illinois near the Wisconsin border?"

The question is if we are the strongest nation on earth, how come those who spout that statement the most are acting like it the least?

FIXX in Three

by folkbum

Days, that is.

Paninis, coffee, soup, CD-release fever (less contagious than swine flu, and without the runny nose), and two hours of quality original music. Starts at 7:30 Saturday, at St. Francis's best strip-mall coffee house.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

The Real Job Killers

By Keith R. Schmitz

Health insurance companies.

Some tip of the iceberg stories about small business' struggles with health insurance coverage from the AHIP protests in Chicago today.

Alternative MPS proposal better, still not focused on children

by folkbum

Not a lot of time this morning, but a quick comment about Grigsby-Coggs: It offers the mayor a strong hand in helping to set the direction for the Milwaukee Public Schools (some budget, superintendent-selection powers), but retains the democratically elected Board. It's a compromise position, really, between status quo and the the "TEACH" Act from Taylor, et al.

However, as with the other proposals, this is mostly about shuffling the cards at the top of the deck a little bit, and generally not focused on where the rubber meets the road, if you'll permit me to mix metaphors. Seems to be some in there about better school-level leadership and better early math and reading curricula, but still mostly nothing that will fundamentally change the daily interactions between students and their learning environments--or change facts about students' home environments to make learning easier, more appealing, and better-supported within stable, healthy families.

But anyway. Time to go put my rubber to the road.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Hm. Maybe I should go after Tom Barrett every day.

by folkbum


You do know that speech is about suicide, right?

by folkbum

Steven Walters, writing today about moves by various politicos to take over or otherwise mangle the Milwaukee Public Schools:
Hamlet's Act 3 "to be or not to be" soliloquy includes this lament: "Thus conscience does make cowards of us all..."

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Great Moments in Sports

By Keith R. Schmitz

When the Bears lose, the fans are exquisite in their anguish. The Friday morning after the Bears lost to San Francisco thanks to QB Jay Culter gave up five interceptions the Sun Times ran a headline over a picture of Culter sitting dejectedly on the turf that read "Bay of Picks." Think of the fun if the regular news hole was given this kind of literary license.

Over at the Badger -- Alaska Anchorage Seawolves hockey match at the Kohl Center Friday night, the inventive UW fans showed their mass inspiration by taunting the loosing Seawolves with (imagine the Matt Unertl cheer from 1999) "I See Russia" followed by "Sarah Palin" followed by "Start the Dog Sled."

Who's going to challenge Tom Barrett from the left?

or, maybe Soglin should file papers after all

by folkbum

As noted here previously, Tom Barrett has spent much of the last few months--and any number of Democrats have on his behalf--dumping on Milwaukee by slandering and demanding control of the Milwaukee Public Schools.

No candidate from Milwaukee can be elected governor, you see, without making certain that they are not viewed as being of Milwaukee. At least, that's as reasonable an explanation as one can draw from Wisconsin's history of not having elected candidates from Milwaukee to statewide office since forever. (Someone who has lived here longer than I have--I started college here in 1992 and stuck around--can probably tell me the last time that happened. But if the Wikipedia can be believed, Lee Dreyfus was the last Milwaukeean elected governor, though he hadn't lived in Milwaukee for years at the time.)

So here's what we're going to end up with: three major-party candidates (Barrett plus Republicans Scott Walker and Mark Nuemann), none of whom will stick up for the state's major urban center, none of whom will advocate for the state's minority population, none of whom will argue that unless we reignite the fires of Milwaukee's economic engine, its idling could drag this state's recovery out for years. (Wisconsin's second major urban area, Madison, has an economy that just keeps racing along, it seems.) Walker will not run a pro-Milwaukee campaign, because he, too, is from here. And Neumann won't because it will not earn him a single vote in a Republican primary.

Sp who's going to challenge Barrett from the left? Who's going to run a progressive, pro-Milwaukee, pro-public education, pro-urban renewal campaign that will force Barrett (and, I would hope, by extension the Republican candidates) to pay attention to progressive issues and stay honest about the needs of Milwaukee's largest city and most desperate economic disaster-in-waiting?

If there is any lesson to be learned from the election two weeks ago in Virginia, it's that running away from the people and the issues that mobilized and energized Barack Obama's voters is a losing proposition. Creigh Deeds was the least progressive candidate from Virginia's Dem primary and he ran hard away from Obama's signature issues like health care reform. Obama voters stayed home, and Deeds lost miserably.

Barrett needs a serious opponent in this primary who can make sure that doesn't happen. Barb Lawton could have been that candidate (though she also had a reasonable chance to beat Barrett--I doubt any other candidate now does). Kevin Conroy is not that person. Kathleen Falk maybe is, but she might not have another statewide run in her. Tammy Baldwin is saving up to replace Herb Kohl in 2012. So that leaves ... who? Paul, are you listening?

Updated to add, from Thomas J. Mertz in the comments, this:
I think there is a larger issue here about who among the Democratic Party of Wisconsin's state elected officials is willing to act on "progressive, pro-Milwaukee, pro-public education, pro-urban renewal..." principles. You could add tax reform and many other things to this list. [. . .] We are at the point where the far right is defining the GOP agenda, the GOP agenda is defining the moderate Democratic agenda and the moderate Democratic agenda is being pushed or defended by "Progressive" elected officials. This isn't good.

What he said.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Deep Thought

by folkbum

If we wear out the whole "The world's gonna end in December 2012" meme now, what are we going to talk about for the next three years?

Friday, November 13, 2009

Leggies who blame MPS for its failures need to look first at what they've done--and not done

by folkbum

I generally like My State Senator, Tim Carpenter. But he, along with Sen. Lena Taylor and Rep. Pedro Colón, have an op-ed in the paper this morning defending their Milwaukee Public Schools takeover bill, and he's just wrong here.

The title of the op-ed is a compound imperative, and both parts are at least somewhat wrong: "MPS must improve; change in governance is necessary." First, I agree that MPS's results must improve; there is no question about that. I spend eight (sometimes ten or twelve) hours a day trying from my little corner of the district to make that happen. And while there are things that he district can and should be doing differently, there is nothing--as I have argued time and time again--that we can do inside the schools to produce large-scale, system-wide changes to the problems created by factors outside the schools. At best, tinkering inside the schools will provide small results at the margins, something shown over and over again by urban districts all across the country facing exactly the same issues MPS is.

Second, simply changing the governance of MPS--at least, changing it as proposed, which includes handing over vast power to the mayor of Milwaukee and weakening the elected board to the point of irrelevance--is not the solution. This is true for any number of reasons, not the least of which is that no proponent of a governance change has offered a single specific idea of how MPS would be different under new leadership, except to say that the leadership would be different. There's also the sad-but-true fact that districts under mayoral control generally do not see vast improvement, and the not sad but devastatingly true fact that voters in this city and this state roundly rejected municipal control of MPS at the ballot box last spring by defeating the candidate who endorsed it.

But what gets me about the argument here presented by Carpenter, Taylor, and Colón is that they blame MPS's failures on a lot of things that they, as legislators, have the power to change immediately without interfering in the governance structure of MPS.

For starters, I'll suggest the one thing they don't name, which is what I noted above and overandoverandoveragain on this blog: MPS students spend the vast majority of their lives outside of the system (between birth and the time she graduates at 18, a student spends just 15% of her life in school). As state legislators from the city of Milwaukee, these three have considerable power and authority to affect the other 85% of our students' lives. All of the things that correlate strongly to poor achievement, from poverty and homelessness to poor health care and transience, are things a legislature could be working on. These are not problems that will be solved by MPS.

However, here's the really galling part:
Additionally, for the past several years, MPS has had to rely on a one-time state budget amendment, one-time federal stimulus funds and even state borrowing from other funds just to remain afloat. This patchwork funding pattern cannot continue while outcomes are not improving. Due to the downturn in the economy, we have seen the state pull back on its commitment to fund two-thirds of educational costs.

To further complicate matters, the Milwaukee school choice funding flaw has burdened property taxpayers in Milwaukee, as has the open enrollment policy. According to the non-partisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau, the net aid reduction for MPS in 2009-'10 will be $44.4 million and in 2008-'09, the net aid transfer out of MPS under the open enrollment program was $21.7 million.
These are consecutive paragraphs of the op-ed, unedited and unaltered. They really did just go there: They slammed MPS's budget situation and then fingered two state programs as being significantly responsible for MPS's loss of funds. These state programs, designed, approved, implemented, and maintained by the state legislature, suck funds out of MPS that then these legislators have the nerve to complain about needing to replace.

While yes, there have been some demographic changes in the city that have decreased enrollment, the primary culprits have been state legislators who say to students and parents, "We're not concerned with making sure MPS and the city it serves have what they need to succeed, so we'll just make it easier for you to go somewhere else." It's as if the state handed out coupons to Subway and then blamed Cousins for its declining sales.

If the legislature were serious about wanting to shore up MPS finances, they should stop handing out those coupons. End those programs. Stop offering incentives for the most-involved parents and the highest-achieving students to leave, and the financial (not to mention academic) picture looks better. We are, for example, supporting retirees from a 120,000-student district on revenues from 80,000 students--in large part because the state has facilitated declining enrollment. School climates have changed for the same reason. Special education enrollment ratios have ballooned. Buildings now stand half-empty that were once bustling hubs of neighborhood activity.

And, after this year's talk of dismantling the democratic leadership of MPS, the city is ready to blow apart at the seams.

There's a lot a legislature could do to help MPS, and, as Carpenter, Taylor, and Colón write, "show the federal government that we are serious about education reform and that Wisconsin is worthy of Race to the Top funds." Standing up to Arne Duncan, who is wrong about mayoral control, may not be the easiest way to do it. It would, however, be the best thing for Milwaukee and its children.

FriTunes, NaNoWriMo edition

by folkbum

Here's one for everyone celebrating National Novel Writing Month by actually, you know, writing their novels.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Deep Thought

by folkbum

Asking Sarah Palin for advice on how to be governor is like asking David Lee Roth for advice on how to lead a rock band.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Veterans' Day, 2009

by folkbum

There is no greater duty than to defend the liberty of your contrymen. Thanks to all who have served, are serving, and will serve.

Monday, November 09, 2009

Final Bracey Report: Mayoral control "disturbing," "undemocratic and ineffectual"

by folkbum

One of the things that the late Gerald Bracey did for years is produce his annual "Bracey Report," which is a look at the various education reform efforts over the course of the past year, good and bad, with a careful examination of the data.

This year's report (.pdf), released today, is particularly timely for us here in Milwaukee and Wisconsin. Today, a group of well meaning but seriously misguided Democrats are introducing a bill, announced two weeks ago, that would strip meaningful control of the Milwaukee Public Schools from the elected board and place it in the hands of the mayor. (Details here.)

Bracey takes the idea of mayoral control on full force, and he is not kind to the idea. Using National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) data, Bracey looks at claims about New York's and Chicago's schools under mayoral control, and finds the claims of great success to be flat-out false. He comes very close to literally calling Arne Duncan, late of Chicago and now US Secretary of Education, a liar, and he is no kinder to Mayor Bloomberg and Joel Klein New York.

Bracey finds that the achievement gaps are wider, graduation rates are no better, and the regimes established under the mayors in those cities are oppressively undemocratic.

(As an aside: I still get angry thinking about the abomination that is No Child Left Behind, and that its existence is entirely premised on the utterly mythical "Houston Miracle" supposedly spearheaded by George W. Bush's first Secretary of Education Rod Paige. Now we have this "Race to the Top" premised on the mythical success of Chicago's schools under Arne Duncan. I thought history was supposed to wait a bit longer before repeating itself.)

Here's Bracey's conculsion:
A close look at the two most visible exemplars of mayoral control, Chicago and New York, yields results that counter the image created by those in control. 'Reforms' that are supposed to help children do better are primarily used to make the adults who control the schools look good. Performance on tests that are subject to manipulation show improvement. Performance on tests that are free of manipulation show no improvement and no closing of ethnic achievement gaps. In reading the literature about the mayoral systems, one repeatedly encounters words like bully, authoritarian, autocratic, arbitrary, intrusive, despotic, dictatorial, disenfranchisement, rubber stamp, exclusion (of parents) even 'Brezhnev-era Soviet Union.' [. . .] Now, Arne Duncan aids, abets—and requires—this version of reform with the lure of big government grants.
In short, Bracey is just the latest in long series of policy and educational researchers to raise serious questions about the efficacy of mayoral control of urban school districts. Every data-backed, peer-reviewed study I have seen of the question comes to the same conclusion: mayoral control doesn't change achievement rates of large urban districts. Given the significant downsides to making such a change in Milwaukee--including opening a racial rift in this city the size of which we haven't seen in decades--and the absence of any data suggesting city schools do better under mayoral control, it would behoove our legislators to reconsider the proposal on the table.

Yes, yes, I get the whole thing about "Race to the Top" money and whatnot. But as I have written before, chasing worthless reforms in pursuit of grant money is a proven losing proposition. It's demeaning and degrading and distracting, and, again, not worth the consequences. If what it takes to earn the money is ultimately to do further disservice to our students, the screw the money, I say.

I don't want to dance to Arne Duncan's music, especially knowing that the melody is a pack of lies to begin with. Our legislators shouldn't give in to the music, either.

Deep Thought

by folkbum

Not one of the local conservative bloggers who used unusually cold days in September to mock "global warming" has noted the recent unusually warm days in November.

Jay Weber does the talk-radio taxidermy

by bert
Here is another transparent tactic used by on-air pundits of the right wing in order to mangle the truth and score points. I call it talk-radio taxidermy. What you do is after a story is dead and gone, you doctor up the corpse to represent some scene that never was.

This tactic is most useful when your right-wing smears could not adhere to the living truth at the time. But maybe later, when memories fade, you can fool your listeners by posing and grooming this dead story to reflect what it never meant. The Iraq War is one example. You will continue to hear this year a persistent subordinate clause that "Bush achieved victory".

This morning, Jay Weber on WISN-AM was, I guess, trying to tell us that Barack Obama doesn't care about soldiers. You see, the retiree George W. Bush traveled within his own state and without the press to visit Fort Hood over the weekend. Good for George Bush. You see, Obama has not yet visited.

Then came the doctored-up corpse. Weber said something today such as: remember when Obama was going to visit injured soldiers in Germany during his campaign and then called off the visit because reporters were not allowed to go along?

The more nuanced story is covered here with some integrity by the Talking Points Memo web site. The army changed its ground rules for the planned Obama visit to the Landstuhl base in the middle of Obama's European trip in the summer of 2008.

The Obama campaign seems to have concluded that to contest those changed rules or continue with the visit, if possible at all under the new rules, would send the wrong signals. If anything, the motive was to avoid politicizing such a visit. That's far from calling it off when they found they could not politicize it, which was what Weber wants the story to be.

The fact is that right-wingers relish the anger produced by the Fort Hood shootings. Because any pundit worth his or her salt should be able to find a means to refashion and redirect anger so that it aims toward blame of a democrat.

After this Fort Hood story also goes dormant, go back and tally the on-air minutes devoted to Obama -- who is sort of peripheral to this story -- versus the minutes devoted to Amy Krueger, Russell Seager, or Amber Bahr .

Saturday, November 07, 2009

Deep Thought

by folkbum

Reagan-era unemployment numbers mean we should be demanding a return to Reagan-era tax rates.

Friday, November 06, 2009

FriTunes, throwback edition

by folkbum

I have always loved this song, but what makes the video for me is the Wayne's World quality production. The zoom in up the nostrils shot is archetypal, of course, but it doesn't really make anyone attractive.

Thursday, November 05, 2009

Tragedy at Ft. Hood

by folkbum

Puts whatever stresses and problems you have at your own job in perspective, no? Thoughts with them, please.

Maybe They Were Punked -- Again

By Keith R. Schmitz

Looking for light for what for them are the darkest of places, the right has been chaffing over the notion that their Stalinization program in the GOP led to a loss of the 23rd district for the Republican Party for the first time in over 100 years, based on what they call the mainstream media "meme." The claim is that a Democrat Michael McNulty held that seat in the late 1990's and into this century, so the MSM is in their minds, wrong as usual.

Turns out their breathless protests were based on something that appeared in all places, Wikipedia. Whenever they can, they will pick up a fumble and run with it, even when it is whistled dead because it leaves a trail of misinformation on the nets that their minions will pick up and repeat for months to come.
If they would have double checked their "facts" they would have found in places such as the contemporary report in the New York Times and in the Library of Congress that McNulty served in the 21st. The memorable Sherwood Boehlert won the 23rd in 1998.

By the way, Wikipedia moved McNulty's seat to the 21st.

Please play again. Thanks you.

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Kill my wife, please

by folkbum

From a man who once had the gall to call me a misogynist.

Interesting--but generally disappointing--results last night

by folkbum

Most disappointing, I think, in Maine, where once again the reactionary forces of bigotry turned out in greater numbers than the forces of goodness and light, and repealed the state's same-sex marriage law. The civil rights efforts of this generation have been dealt another severe setback. (At the same time, Washington State seems to have approved fully equal rights for civil unions; good for them.)

The Virginia race suggests two things: One, Democrats will have to work very hard--and will need to recapture or somehow replace the personally inspirational figure of Barack Obama--to spur base turnout in 2010. It doesn't seem that the voters who elected Obama in Virginia rejected him last night; rather, they stayed home, and that's a different, but equally deadly, problem. Two, it suggests that contra the tea-party philosophy, Republicans who run away from the crazy (Bob McDonnell did everything he could to paint himself as a reasonable moderate) can win. Put that up against NY-23, where the in-all-but-name Republican went the Full Palin, and lost a seat that Republicans had held since 1850 to the moderate Democrat. (The other federal race, CA-10, also went to the Democrat. Two races does not a trend make--it takes three!--but clearly voters did not reject Nancy Pelosi, either, last night.)

In New Jersey, I think the lesson is that when things are sucky, it's difficult for an incumbent to win, even against a scandal-mired candidate. (I'm sure many Republicans believe this is the lesson of 2008.) NJ's economic climate is ugly--much moreso than Virginia's--and the vote there is clearly a rejection of current policies in a way that Virginia's vote, where there was no incumbent and the Democrat was not all that closely tied to his predecessor, was probably not.

More locally, the North Shore once again suggests it's not necessarily going to be receptive to the Full Palin--no tax is a good tax--in the future, either. Not that I love taxes or that I think the first answer to any question is to raise them, but the tea-party vanguard has at its core the polar opposite of that message, and it did not win last night in New York, in Whitefish Bay, or anywhere else.

And one final question remains, one year out from 2010: Who's our Democratic candidate for governor? I said it wouldn't be me, but clearly they must be getting pretty far along the list of people ahead of me who would all have to say no before it's my turn. I mean, seriously, guys. Someone's gotta step up.

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

I'm not sure which was funnier ...

by folkbum

... my Comedy Sportz show or the County budget hearing. I suppose the budget thing was more sadly tragicomic, eh?

Special shout-out to the Audubon contingent who came out to the show. Good to see you all again!

Also: Regular blogging should resume again after my in-laws leave this weekend. Busybusybusy.

Sunday, November 01, 2009

Your 24-hour warning: Funny ahead

by folkbum

Look, I know that you want nothing more than to laugh at me. Hell, many of you are probably doing that very thing right now from the convenience of your own home. However, if you would rather do it in person, for free, you can, Monday night. Come on over to Comedy Sportz Milwaukee at 7 PM. My improv classmates and I are putting on a free showcase performance, and we need an audience to suggest stupid and embarrassing things for us to do. Plus the bar will be open!

Well, somewhere out in the Midwest anyway

by bert

I get the overall point from the writer in today's New York Times about how jarring are the regional differences in Iraq versus those between two Midwestern states:
The invisible line that separates Iraqi Kurdistan from Iraq’s lower
provinces should be little different than crossing from, say, Michigan into Illinois. . .

But I guess Alissa J. Rubin or others on the East Coast wouldn't bother to know that Michigan and Illinois don't share a border. (To be fair, I don't spend much time out East and I'm never sure if places like Delaware and New Jersey butt up against each other???)

It reminds me of the famous drawing by Saul Steinberg from a 1976 New Yorker magazine cover.